Building the future

As artists, activists, entrepreneurs and inventors, young people are shaping the future in new and powerful ways. We invited a select few, all born since 1985, to give their predictions for 2017 and beyond

Generation prophet

The next century should be pretty incredible. We are likely to develop machine intelligence that exceeds human capability. We will probably engineer biology to create new life forms. We might eliminate most diseases. The cost of energy may drop by an order of magnitude, and we will set out on our path off Earth to spread among the stars.

A century is the blink of an eye in human history, and an eternity compared with the timescales humans usually plan for. These will be great but complex transitions, and they are not without risk. In 2017 we should start thinking seriously about how we reach this incredible future.

At Y Combinator we fund innovation. Startups are excellent vehicles for delivering new technology, so we try to help as many get started as we can—more than 1,300 so far, worth more than $75bn in aggregate. I think 2017 will be better than ever. More people are starting companies, the ideas seem to be improving and the problems tackled are increasingly important.

We also fund basic research—not all new ideas can or should be developed by startups. So far, this includes OpenAI (a non-profit to develop safe AI systems with human-level intelligence), and research on basic income, new cities and the future of education.

Our efforts are, of course, a very small part of what we need to do as a species. We must figure out how to direct our resources towards solving our most important problems and make the future great for everyone.

It sounds far off and it will take decades to unfold. But technology accelerates at an exponential rate. I’m optimistic we’ll make visible progress faster than most people think.

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